July 12, 2007
U.S. Archivist Pays Tribute to Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson
Following is a statement by the Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein, upon the death of Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson:
The entire staff of the National Archives and Records Administration joins me in sending our deepest condolences to the family of Lady Bird Johnson.
Mrs. Johnson’s role as one of the nation’s pioneering environmentalists is well known. Her hard work and persistence contributed to the passage of the Highway Beautification Act and other legislation - the impacts of which we see every day along our highways, in our parks, and all across our landscape. And she was a tireless supporter of her husband’s programs to lift Americans out of poverty and extend the full benefits of American citizenship to people of all races with his landmark civil rights legislation.
Her role as a source of wisdom and advice to President Lyndon B. Johnson, usually given gently but firmly behind the scenes, is also well known. She showed courage in helping a grieving nation heal after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and she was a constant adviser to her husband during the many difficult days of his years in the White House.
But she also had a deep commitment to history and to the work of the National Archives and the Johnson Presidential Library on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. For more than a third of a century, since the library opened in 1971, Mrs. Johnson played an active role in the programs and educational activities for which the library has gained much acclaim.
But her commitment to the cause of history was more far-reaching. That came when she allowed the early opening of the tape-recorded telephone conversations between President Johnson and the major political figures of the time. These recordings have been used by scholars and historians and have been available for all to hear on public radio. Transcripts of them have filled books.
As a result of Mrs. Johnson’s foresight and generosity in releasing the tapes early, a much more accurate and complete picture of Lyndon Johnson’s personality, thoughts, and decision-making process has emerged. These conversations now provide a priceless window into the mind of the American President during one of the nation’s most turbulent times.
Mrs. Johnson’s death is an enormous loss to all of us. But she leaves a legacy that touches us all, and for that, we are all grateful for her words and deeds.
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The Johnson Library has posted a tribute to Mrs. Johnson at http://ladybirdjohnsontribute.org, and all of the presidential libraries have condolence books for visitors to sign.
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